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Walter Hawkins was a highly acclaimed gospel singer, pastor, song writer, musician and music publisher. He was born in May 1949 into a family that included brother Edwin Hawkins and sister Lynette Hawkins-Stephens. Walter joined a chorale set up by Edwin Hawkins, The Northern California State Youth Choir in the Church of God in Christ. Walter Hawkins first recording was anonymously in 1968 as part of the Berkeley, California-based Ephesians Church of God in Christ's youth choir. The choir recorded an album 'Let Us Go Into The House of the Lord' to raise funds to attend a convention This album included the song 'Oh Happy Day' that became a major cross-over hit on mainstream charts, selling over a million copies, and is still regarded as the most famous gospel song ever. At this time the choir renamed itself The Edwin Hawkins Singers as they were not allowed to have a commercial album associated with the church.
Walter Hawkins later said "There's always been controversy around modern versus traditional gospel. What is tradition anyway? Gospel music doesn't have a particular style. Gospel's got to progress." The success of this song launched Walter Hawkins musical career and the Edwin Hawkins Singers went on to tour across the U.S. and beyond.
Walter Hawkins married Tramaine Davis who was a gospel singer with Andraé Crouch and The Disciples. They had two children. Walter took up the call to serve in church ministry and founded the Love Center Church in Oakland, California in 1973. He borrowed $1,800 from his mother-in-law to fund the first 'Love Alive' live album recording that duely took place at Ephesians Church of God in Christ in Berkeley. The album sold over 300,000 copies and was listed at the top of the Gospel Album charts. It contained gospel classics such as 'Goin' up Yonder', 'Changed' amd 'I'm Not the Same'.
Several other 'Love Alive' recordings were released throughout the 1980s and early 1990s and sold over a million copies. Walter Hawkins began to appreciate that his music and ministry went "hand-in-hand" later stating "I can go a lot of places with my music that I can't go as a pastor and vice versa. The purpose of both is getting the message out to people.". In 1992 he was consecrated as a Bishop.
Walter Hawkins has been a prolific contributor to other gospel artists' projects.
Infact he has produced or collaborated on 116 Billboard charting hit songs including:
The song 'Hold On Old Soldier' was written by Walter and together with Frank Williams he sang it on the Mississippi Mass Choir album 'It Remains to be Seen'.
Lynette Hawkins-Stephens' 1987 album on Birthright Records 'Baby Sis' was written and produced by Walter Hawkins.
In 2002 he sang a duet called 'Seasons' with Donald Lawrence on the Tri-City Singers album 'Go Get Your Life Back'.
Edwin Hawkins' 'Live with the Oakland Symphony';
Singing as part of the Hawkins Family on 'We've Come Too Far' on Richard Smallwood's 'Journey: Live in New York' 2006 album on Verity;
Backing vocals on Mary Mary's 'The Sound' 2008 album.
Walter Hawkins has worked with secular artists including: Jeffrey Osborne; Sylvester; Van Morrison; Lee Oskar; Jennifer Holliday; Earth, Wind and Fire; and Diahann Carroll.
Walter Hawkins has been a major influence in the launching of other gospel artists careers including:
John P. Key:
Tramaine Hawkins: and
Walter Hawkins collected numerous awards including:
Three Dove Awards;
The 1981 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance for 'The Lord's Prayer';
Two Stellar Awards for his solo album 'A Song In My Heart';
The San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy's 2003 Governors Award for Creative Excellence and Outstanding Achievement;
Billboard #1 Award for the #Love Alive IV# album;
The Gospel Music Hall of Fame Museum Award;
The Gospel Music's Lifetime Heritage Award;
He also received eightGrammy nominations.
Walter Hawkins played a part in other gospel albums projects including:
Piano and backing vocals on Tramaine Hawkins' 'Search Is Over' 1983 album on A&M;
Contributing to the Mississippi Mass Choir's 'It Remains To Be Seen' 1993 on Malaco;
Piano, keyboards and background vocals on Daryl Coley's 'Just Daryl' 1986 album on Diego/Alliant;
Keyboards on Tramaine Hawkins' 'Live' 1990 on Sparrow;
Vocals on Gospel Music Workshop of America's 'Live In Washington D.C.' 1991 album on Savoy Gospel;
Contributing to Edwin Hawkins' 'Oh Happy Day Reunion' 1992 album on Intersound;
Vocals on the Bay Area Mass Choir's 'Job' 1994 album on Atlanta International;
Vocals, choir director and co-directing on Edwin Hawkins' 'Kings & Kingdoms' 1994 Grammy nominated album;
Piano and backing vocals on Jennifer Holliday's 'On & On...' 1995 album on Intersound;
Vocals on the Los Angeles Chapter of the G.M.W.A.'s 'Be Encouraged' 1996 album on Savoy Gospel;
Producing and vocals on the Mississippi Mass Choir's 'I'll See You In The Rapture' 1996 Grammy nominated album on Malaco;
Vocals on the Western Michigan Mass Choir's 'Jesus Loves Me' 1997 album on World Class Gospel;
Keyboards on Kelli Williams' 'I Get Lifted' 1998 album on Word/Epic;
Duet with Tramaine Hawkins' 'It's Your Power' on Tramaine's 'Still Tramaine' 2001 double Grammy winning album on Gospocentric;
Contributing to Moses Tyson, Jr.'s 'World Class Gospel Experience Vol. 1' 2002 on the World Class Gospel label;
Vocals on Ted & Sheri's 'Celebrate' 2004 on Word;
Singing 'Seasons' on 'Donald Lawrence Presents The Tri-City Singers Finale Act I' 2006 album;
Vocals on Mary Mary's 'The Sound' 2008 on Columbia records;
Walter Hawkins had a two year battle with pancreatic cancer and died in 2010. A two day celebration of his life was held at Oakland's Paramount Theatre that included many of the most well-known gospel singers. A letter from President Obama was read at the funeral service.
Walter Hawkins sings "Until I Found The Lord".
|'Do Your Best' (1972)
|'Love Alive' (1975) Light 1012
Featuring The Love Center Choir. This album reached the top of and stayed in the Billboard Top 40 Gospel Album Chart over three years. It contained gospel classics such as 'Goin' Up Yonder', 'Changed' amd 'I'm Not the Same'.
|'The Hawkins Family: Jesus Christ Is the Way' (1977) Light
|'Love Alive II' (1978) Light 5735
Love Alive II sold over 290,000 copies and won two Dove Awards. It was also nominated for a Grammy. It reached number 1 in the Billboard Gospel Albums Chart in 1980. Lead vocalists are Walter Hawkins, Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Francis Pye and Lynette Hawkins Stephens. Backing vocals come from the The Love Center Choir.
|'The Hawkins Family Live' (1980) Light
Another album that reached number 1 in the Billboard Gospel Albums Chart in 1980.
|'ttt' (1980) Light
A compilation album featuring guests. Walter and Tramaine duet on 'Thy Kingdom Come'.
|'Gospel' (1982) Savoy
|'I Feel Like Singing' (1983) Light
|'Love Alive III' (1984) Light 1011
Featuring The Love Center Choir. Love Alive III spent several months at number 1 in the Billboard Gospel Albums Chart in 1984/1985. It sold over a million copies and was nominated for a Dove Award.
|'The Hawkins Family: Special Gift' (1988) Light
|'Love Alive IV' (1990) Malaco 6007
Featuring The Love Center Choir. Love Alive IV was nominated for a Grammy and remained at number 1 on the Billboard Gospel Chart for more than 33 weeks.
|'Selah' (1990) Light
|'Only The Best' (1990) Light
|'The Light Years' (1995) Polygram
|'The Hawkins Family Collection' (1995) Platinum
|'Hawkins Family: New Dawning' (1996) Bellmark
|'Love Alive V: 25th Anniversary Reunion' (1998) Interscope/Gospo Centric Records 1063
This double LP/CD reunited Walter Hawkins with Tramaine ('It's Right And Good' and 'He Brought Me'), Edwin Hawkins, Lynette Hawkins Stephens, Pastor Yvette Flunder, Walter's cousin Shirley Miller ('I Must Go On') and the Love Center Choir. Disc one contained new songs while disc 2 included favourite songs from the past. This was Walter Hawkins 25th Anniversary as a Pastor.
|'Hawkins Family: Take Courage' (2000) Bellmark
|'The Best of Love Alive' (2002) Light
|'Legends of Gospel' (2002) Light
|'Mega 3 Collection: Love Alive' (2002) light
|'A Song In My Heart' (2005) Coda/Red:Sony
|'The Very Best of Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins Family' (2005) Artemis Gospel
|'Gospel Legacy' (2008) Artemis Gospel
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